Sir, since your impeachment some five months ago, you have been so quiet, but just this week, we heard that you have taken the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), what may have informed this?
First and foremost, I would want to say that I thank God for the opportunity given to me by Nigeria’s stakeholders in the game of football to serve them between 2006 and 2010 and I am sure I have done my best within this short period, using the statutes endorsed by government and supported by the relevant stakeholders in the game. It is quite obvious that the procedures for impeachment is very clear, and the procedures for seeking redress is also clear.
We all know what transpired immediately we came back from the World Cup and I was impeached without any offence, which was three days after we had held an executive committee meeting where a vote of confidence was passed on me.
In a civilized society like Nigeria, there are very clear ways of seeking redress in various issues. That is what we have just done. When this came, it was a shocker to us, we say we are not going to fight anybody, and we had to look at what the statutes says, and it is very clear, and that is to go to our football court, which is CAS, and we have just done exactly that.
So we have quietly done that, despite the high level of intimidation, harassment and the corruption charges that have been leveled against us. We now say that the best way to seek redress in a democratic setting is to seek redress through the football court which is CAS. That is exactly what we have just done.
Looking critically, do you think you have a case in CAS?
I would want to tell you that we are aggrieved, we are disturbed, for we felt that something has not be done correctly because we were in leadership positions and were booted out, we would no doubt have to seek redress. That is what we have done, and those who know what CAS does, they ask questions before they accept your claims, that is just the story. I want to believe that they would do what is absolutely right to all parties involved in this case. We are confident that what happened did not follow due process before we were impeached.
If CAS annuls the present board and say Lulu and his former members should come back, are you willing to do that?
Well, the issue is not between Sani Lulu and CAS, nor between Sani Lulu and the entire people of this country. Certainly, we are seeking redress over the injustice meted out to us and by the special grace of God, the judgement is going to be in our favour, and I know, I love my country, and I came to the position because I have the desire to serve my country in that capacity, but we would not preempt the decision of the court. We have to wait till then. Even if Nigerians say they don’t want me, but they must give me my respect for the service I have rendered to this great country.
That is all I am out to prove. I can say emphatically, that it is not Nigerians that don’t want me, but few individuals who are using the mercenaries of government to push me out. I think I still deserve my respect for serving this country.
Why did it take you five months to take this decision?
I never went to sleep. I was conscious of the mandate given to me by Nigerians and I have always done my best to protect the statutes. It is the statutes that I am protecting. The statutes makes provision for a procedural way to pursue the matter which is exactly what we have just done.
What I did when the rumour was on was to write to FIFA. But they were taking time and we decided to take the case to CAS whose response you have just heard.
It is not that we wasted time, but had to wait patiently to serve those in relevant authorities with what we are going through. It is the procedure that led to this terminal stage in CAS.
It is the belief of many Nigerians that the NFF statutes you are talking about is not in existence, how can you relate this?
Taking you down memory lane in 2006 when we took over the mantle of leadership, the then Minister of Sports Bawa Ka’oje handed over the statutes of the Federation as was approved in 2005 in Port Harcourt. It was this election based on the statutes that brought us into office. The statutes was my only working tools.
Immediately after that, there were a lot of conflicts and perceived impression by Nigerians and FIFA also drew a road map that Decree 101 must be repealed and the mandate was getting close, then the Honourable Minister took it upon himself to get the government involved, and I think he took the case to the Federal Executive Council Meeting. He was given the mandate to issue us a letter which was given to FIFA stating clearly that the Federal Government is supportive of the new NFF Board to use statues while Decree 101 would be repealed. That was what we did, and the government of the day, gave us the maximum enabling environment to carry this out.
Sir, many say that it is through the statues that we are having a lot of problem, especially as it relates to change of name. We still hear people calling it ‘NFA’ while others are saying ‘NFF’, so why the conflict of names?
We have been very consistent. We have never changed it. It is only a few disgruntled people who do not mean well for this nation that still refer to the Nigeria Football Federation as NFA. We have been so consistent with that because we followed the due process to arrived at the name and FIFA is fully aware of this and they have acknowledged it. And it was endorsed by those that are empowered within the football circle to do that. So NIGERIA FOOTBALL FEDERATION is the authentic name and it remains until the time I left office.
It is the opinion of many that the Congress of NFF as it is constituted now is not legitimate, because some FA Chairmen tenures were elongated to suit your purpose then. Can you please throw more light on this?
I must be very careful here because the issue is before CAS. It is premature for me to talk about it. But one thing I want to let you know is that everyone in football business is like a family. Since this case is still before CAS, let us not run foul to contempt of the court.
Recently you broke your silence over the amount of money you left in the coffers of NFF, for the records, can you give a clue of it once again?
I want to say that what I gave out was the latest. I think it is the responsibilities of the various authorities to make enquiries, but I made those statements based on facts from the banks.
It is not to prove anybody wrong, but I believe in what I have given. It is left for anyone to prove otherwise. It is very emphatic and the monies left are there in UBA, First Bank and Afribank for verifications.
No doubt, the last five months has been a very challenging one to you, can you tell us what your experience has been like?
To be frank with you, it has been a very difficult and touchy period for me and my family. My case is in court, and I would want to say that it has been very difficult for me and my entire family. Whatever difficulties one is facing, is supposed to be a price for leadership.
I am only been touched sincerely, my going to EFCC cell or the Kuje prisons is not the issue that touched me, I know it is ultimately the price I have to pay for serving my country, but what touched me most was the kidnapping of my mother, she is innocent in this whole business. I have not stolen one naira, but people said I have stolen N1 billion that I should give them ten percent of it, which is N20 million, before they would release my mother. I think at the appropriate time, God will vindicate us from all these difficulties we have gone through.
Before the World Cup, there were stories of Hampshire Hotel that was rejected, can you throw more light on this?
Again, I want to be very careful on this, because it is one of those ten court charges I am facing in the court, and I would be very careful not to go against the impression of the court. But it is quite obvious that the Minister of Sports directed that the Hampshire Hotel be changed to another hotel.. Hampshire was the hotel of our choice, because FIFA had empowered the various Federations to inspect and confirm what they want and not the various government of the countries.
Just like my other counterparts, we did our detailed analysis towards that, following all the due processes. But within time, it was changed, but how it was changed, I don’t know but the Minister gave a directive to that effect. I wouldn’t go into details on this, the court would have to decide on it in due course, but I would want to emphasized that the Federation did not change the hotel. It was the Minister who changed it.